In Hot Water

from Landscape Solutions
Whether you incorporate a spa in your deck design or build a private gazebo for your hot tub, here are some tips for making sure it will suit your needs.

Outdoor spas can be portable or in-ground. Which is right for you? Evaluate their respective advantages and disadvantages to decide which fits you better.

Portable Pros and Cons
A portable spa consists of a molded fiberglass spa, heater, pump, filter, and bubbler or hydrojets in one assembly. For installation, you’ll need a site, an electric outlet, and a source of water. Costs range from $2,000 to $12,000, depending on size and features.

On the plus side, portable spas can be up and running within a few hours. Each all-in-one unit comes with the spa, support equipment, and skirting that hides the equipment. Because shapes and sizes are standard, buying accessories is easy and economical. Also, you can move the units, unless they’re built into decks or patios.

On the other hand, portable spas are difficult to disguise — they can become unwanted focal points in landscaping. You are limited to the sizes and shapes offered by manufacturers. Portable spas require a level, solid surface.

In-Ground Pros and Cons
Teamed with a pool or other features, an in-ground spa can be part of a dramatic landscape. You can customize the shape to integrate one into a deck or patio. It’s also fairly easy to add a spa to an existing pool. A spa connected to a swimming pool can share a filtration unit.

But in-ground spas must be built by professionals; they require excavation, installation of plumbing and electrical lines, and a few months to build. They cost $15,000 to $20,000 and often are more cost-effective when built in conjunction with in-ground pools.

Spas come in a variety of materials. Acrylic spas are available in many preformed shapes and sizes. Concrete spas are easy to customize. Tile adds a decorative touch but is labor-intensive and more costly. Gunite is spray-applied concrete. It’s less expensive than poured concrete but offers similar durability and flexibility.

Zoning, Insurance, and Safety
Check local zoning and building regulations. Spas typically receive zoning considerations similar to those for pools. Most communities have guidelines for fencing and enclosures, setbacks to property lines, and proximity to utility lines.

Insurance coverage for spas is part of homeowners’ policies. Some insurance companies increase premiums for owning a spa, so check before you buy or build.

Safety is a primary concern. Make sure guests know how to use the equipment safely. Proper enclosures and supervision are a must to ensure the safety of children, pets, and wildlife that may wander near the pool. Specialty safety products are available.

Special Features
Simple spa features — a cover, seating, and jet fittings — can help you relax more comfortably. A spa cover conserves energy, minimizes water and chemical evaporation, and keeps debris out of the spa. Rigid covers are more expensive than flexible ones but typically provide better insulation. Before you decide on the amount and type of seating to include, take a test soak in a spa to evaluate the possibilities. Consider how many people will use the spa at a time.

Because spas are used for relaxation, therapy, and fitness, specialized jet fittings are available. Most of these fittings are adjustable.

Care and Maintenance
With the appropriate equipment, minimal effort will keep your spa clean and comfortable. Consider the equipment and chemicals you’ll need for upkeep and the regular chores you’ll perform.

Because spas are covered when not in use, debris in the water is minimal. Skim the surface if needed; most large debris such as leaves or twigs will be captured in the skimmer basket. Empty the basket regularly.

Though regular use of chemicals in the spa allows you to keep the water sanitized, it’s best to drain your spa and start fresh about every six months.

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